Did you know hugging has health benefits? My sisters and I recently visited my mother’s family in Georgia. We have a big, extended family and we all like each other. We hug each other to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “good morning,” “that cornbread was awesome,” and for almost anything else you can think of. That’s the way it’s been with our family for as long as I can remember. If you are averse to hugging, this is not the family to hang out with. Hugging makes me feel good. It makes me feel loved. I didn't know it has proven health benefits, though.
The simple definition of hug is “to put your arms around someone especially as a way of showing love or friendship.” Love and friendship translate into strong social relationships. Psychology Today reports that having strong social relationships predicts a 50% increased chance of longevity. So the way I see it, it’s like the formula we learned in school. If A = B and B=C then A=C. In other words, if hugs (A) equal stronger social relationships (B), and stronger social relationships (B) equal an increased chance of longevity (C), then hugs equal increased chance of longevity. I’m good with that!
The Psychology Today study goes on to say it is not just the strength of our relationships that predict longevity, but the attitude with which we engage in those relationships. Research shows that the greatest benefits for longevity and well-being come from sharing our love with others, not receiving it.
A study by University of North Carolina researchers found that hugs increase the "bonding" hormone oxytocin and decrease the risk of heart disease. "Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health. This study has reinforced research findings that a hug from a loved one can have beneficial effects on heart health," the study reports.
From birth until we take our last breath, we need hugs. A simple, heartfelt embrace has positive psychological and physical effects. It has been known for years that people who receive hugs and cuddles from their spouses, children or even their pets live longer and recover from illness faster. When caring for my mother, I discovered that even hugging a stuffed animal had positive effects.
The most obvious benefits of hugging don't require a scientific study. Hugs make us feel loved, safe and secure. They boost our self-esteem, and keep us connected to the world around us. Give those you love all the affection and hugs you can. It can’t hurt and it may bring a bounty of health benefits.
Have you hugged someone today? Hug someone for the health of it!
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